5 Signs of a Broken HVAC Compressor

Jan 26, 2021

The compressor is like the heart of your HVAC unit. If you are not familiar with heating and cooling systems, hearing you have a broken compressor is often the equivalent of a mechanic telling you that your car’s transmission has failed. Catching compressor issues early can help you get the service you need and avoid irreparable damage. Here is a closer look at your compressor and 5 signs that it may be struggling.

What is an HVAC Compressor?

As the name suggests, your compressor is responsible for compressing your HVAC system’s refrigerant. The compression process ensures that your refrigerant reaches the proper temperature and pressure levels—allowing your refrigerant to then effectively regulate your home’s temperature by transferring heat between your indoor and outdoor coils.

1: Higher Energy Bills

Your compressor is the most energy-consuming part of your HVAC system. When there is an issue with your compressor, this energy-consuming component will have to work even harder to function properly. As such, compressor issues can cause higher energy bills. Your electricity bills will naturally rise the more that you are using your heating or cooling unit. When the outdoor temperature, thermostat settings, and usage factors are accounted for, high energy bills could be a sign of compressor failure.

2: Blowing a Fuse or Tripping a Breaker

When your HVAC system starts consuming excessive amounts of energy, it can overwhelm your electrical circuit. This often results in a tripped breaker or blown fuse. When a breaker is tripped, your HVAC system will shut off—along with anything else that might be sharing that same power circuit. You can check your power box to examine whether or not your HVAC system has tripped a breaker.

3: Ineffective Heating or Cooling

Your heating and cooling unit is a network of parts and pieces that all need to work together to achieve proper functioning. Naturally, when any component of your HVAC system stops working, you will stop receiving comfortable air. Compressor issues often first appear similar to low refrigerant issues. Primarily, you will notice that your HVAC system is delivering less comfortable air. Over time, you might find your AC system produces warm air while your heater produces cold air.

4: Loud HVAC Noises

When your compressor is on its way out, it will begin struggling to turn on. This often results in a wide variety of potential noises—ticking, rattling, and clicking, among others. Of course, unusual sounds can be the sign of a few different HVAC problems. If you start to hear unusual sounds coming from your heating or cooling system, contact an expert before any damage can continue or worsen.

5: Leaking HVAC System

HVAC system leaks often indicate an issue, though this symptom has a few potential culprits. Water runoff could be melting ice from your heater’s defrost mode in the winter. In the summer, this could be linked to a drain line issue. However, in a worst-case scenario, this liquid is refrigerant instead of water. Failing compressors may cause your refrigerant to leak. Refrigerants can be harmful, posing potential health risks for you and your family. If you notice pools of liquid around your HVAC system, contact an expert immediately.

Can an HVAC Compressor Be Repaired?

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that a broken compressor is a fatal issue for their HVAC unit. Thankfully, not all compressor troubles require extensive or costly repairs. An expert may be able to fix your unit if its failure is sourced in a small internal part. Capacitor, valve, and terminal connection problems can often be repaired with a minor part replacement. More significant damage may require that you replace the entire compressor. For newer units, this service might be covered under your HVAC warranty. For older units, a new compressor may not be worth the cost of repairs. Instead, homeowners often opt to replace their HVAC system. If you are unsure of whether or not it is worth replacing your compressor, an expert will be able to assess your unit’s damage and offer guidance. You can also read our guide on HVAC Repair vs. Replacement decisions.

Newcomb and Company: HVAC Compressor Service

If you find that your heating and cooling system is not working as it should, the experts at Newcomb and Company are here for you. We can diagnose compressor problems—or any other issue your system may be experiencing—and work with you to find a solution. Our HVAC technicians proudly serve homes in Raleigh, Wilmington, and surrounding areas—including Cary, Knightdale, Clayton, Garner, Leland, Castle Hayne, and beyond. You can contact our experts for an appointment to get started today!

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